Obama urges Congress to pass Pacific trade deal

Obama urges Congress to pass Pacific trade deal

President Obama called on Congress to pass an expansive trade agreement spanning the Pacific Rim to give the United States an edge in the global economy.

The president told Congress on Tuesday night during his State of the Union address that forging the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an example of the United States using its powers to "mobilize the world to work with us” on issues of global concern.

He said the TPP will "open markets, protect workers and the environment and advance American leadership in Asia."

The TPP will cut 18,000 tariffs and support better U.S. jobs, Obama said. 

“With TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do. You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.”

The TPP mention got scattered applause from the assembled lawmakers and a glance to the Republican side of the floor from Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanSpending deal talks down to toughest issues, lawmakers say Schiff: I thought more Republicans would speak out against Trump Dem leaders pull back from hard-line immigration demand MORE (R-Wis.). 

The White House faces plenty of hurdles to building congressional support to pass the deal.

The majority of the president’s own party in Congress is opposed to passing the TPP, leaving him to rely on Republicans to help complete that part of his economic agenda before he leaves office. 

Rep. Rosa DeLauro ‏(D-Conn.), an outspoken critic of the TPP, tweeted that the deal “does not raise wages, grow good paying American jobs, or expand our middle class. We can and we must do better.”

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said he’s working through the agreement and may start hearings in February.

Brady said that while the TPP agreement is important on many levels for the United States, the White House must address some issues — from pharmaceuticals to tobacco — to solidify support in Congress. 

He said that the timing of a House floor vote would be driven by the amount of congressional support.

Still, the TPP has a "good solid base of support in the House but there is still a lot of work to do," Brady said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate tees up Yemen vote for Tuesday Senate confirms Trump's border chief House leaves out ObamaCare fix from must-pass funding bill MORE (R-Ky.) has said that the TPP would probably have to wait until the lame-duck session after the presidential election.

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenFacebook faces new crisis over Cambridge Analytica data Cambridge Analytica CEO filmed talking about using bribes, sex workers in political work Cambridge Analytica 'strongly denies' mishandling Facebook users' information MORE (D-Ore.), who was instrumental in building Democratic support for fast-track authority in the Senate, said he agrees with the president that “opening new markets and exporting American products represents an enormous opportunity to grow jobs and raise middle-class wages.” 

"Trade done right must maximize those opportunities for Oregon and the United States,” Wyden said. 

Whether the deal can move faster on a tight congressional calendar in a presidential election year remains to be seen.

The TPP was completed in October, and the text of the agreement was released in early November. Trade ministers from the TPP's 12 nations are expected to gather early next month to sign the pact.